Halloween Treat from Classical Music: Ghoulish Sounds and Spooky Listening for All Hallows’ Eve

Whatever its genre, music greatly affects the environment and mood of the listener. Classical music has been used in soundtracks for effects, dramatic or frightening. Here is a suggested list of horrifying and thrillingly devilish classical music, from Bach’s Baroque era to Stravinsky’s modern times, which can be played to celebrate Halloween.

Bach, Johann Sebastian: Passacaglia and Thema Fugatum in C minor, BWV 582.

Passacaglia is an Italian term for an instrumental piece, commonly written in triple time. It is originally a dance, in which a theme is continually repeated above a ground bass. It is similar to, and confused with chaconne. Bach’s organ passacaglia is often used as a model for this kind of music.

Boccherini, Luigi: Symphony No. 6, The House of the Devil.

Boccherini’s ‘Casa del Diavolo‘ was inspired by C.W.Glück’s Don Juan and Orphée. There may have been other works of the same symphony title but the works are relatively unknown.

Johannes Brahms: Begräbensgesange Op. 13 (Funeral Hymn).

The first edition was published in December 1860 or January 1861. It is usually for chorus and wind-band.

Gabriel Fauré: Chant funeraire.

This haunting piece of orchestral music by Fauré was commissioned by the French government in 1921, a memorial for the centenary of Emperor Napoleon’s death.

Charles Gounod: Funeral March of a Marionette.

It was originally written as one of the movements of a Suite Burlesque but was never completed. The music tells a story about two of the members of the Marionette troupes. They had a duel and one of them was killed.

A procession sets out for the cemetery with pallbearers. Tired by the march, the group re-invigorate themselves in a wayside inn before they resume for the cemetery to the music of the march rhythm, a reflection of brief life on earth for everyone, Marionette or not.

Felix Mendelssohn: First Walpurgis Night (Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60).

Mendelssohn composed this cantata during his travels in Italy in 1831, and performed in Leipzig, February 2, 1843. It was based from the poem of Johann Goethe, “The First Walpurgis Night.” The story is about the witches of the Northern mythology who were supposed to hold their revels of the Brocken summit on the first May which is Walpurgis Night.

Niccolo Paganini: Witches Dance

This master violinist was most noted for his marvelous left hand. A passage from this music this Witches Dance in the original, show how all the notes are played pizzicato with the left hand, that is, without the aid of the bow.

Igor Stravinsky: Devil’s Dance.

This music is derived from Stravinsky’s two-act opera, The Soldier’s Tale (Histoire du Soldat), written for small ensemble to compensate for the lack of players. This was during World War I when many were enlisted in the armed forces.

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